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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Freedom (Clarify Your Identity) - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Freedom (Clarify Your Identity) - Part 2

Allen Jackson - Freedom (Clarify Your Identity) - Part 2
TOPICS: Clarify Your Identity, Freedom

Hey, what a privilege to be with you today. We're gonna complete this discussion we're having on the freedom that is ours because of our identity in Christ. You know, so often we're labeled because of the accent we have or the color of our hair or the academic education that we may have managed to complete. So many things label us, but the most significant identifier of each one of us as individuals is our relationship to God. How we understand him, how we imagine we have a relationship with him so that in Jesus, everything about our lives change. It's far more important than the church we attend or the denomination we belong to or the kind of car we drive, we are Christ followers, we are servants of the King, and we serve at his pleasure. Enjoy the lesson.

How is it? How is it possible that we teach our children to be advocates for a university sports team before we teach them to be advocates for Jesus? What has happened to us, church? Have we become so idolatrous, so addled, so confused that our priorities are so messed up? Well, I understand if, "I put those words in their mouth when they're young, there could be push back or", no kidding. No kidding. This relationship requires of us a voluntary submission, which is kind of fancy language for surrender. Surrender carries with it kind of a negative connotation. It's a yielding, it's a withdrawing; you're not asserting. And in the face of Almighty God, the best response is surrender. He's smarter than we are. He's more powerful than we are. He's wiser than we are. He's kinder than we are. He's more generous than we are. It's a safe idea.

In Romans chapter 12, in verse 1, it says, "I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy," not his harshness, his mercy, "to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, this is your spiritual act of worship". The language is a little blind to us. We haven't been engaged in the sacrificial system. But it was a part of the culture of Jerusalem, the worship of Jerusalem for a long, long time. The animals be presented to the priest, and their preparation to be a sacrifice means that they would be slaughtered and the animals, the body would be laid on the altar to be consumed by the fire. By the time the animal was placed on the altar, it was void of any life. There was no self-determination left. Nothing jumped off the altar.

And that's the imagery that Paul is using in Romans 12. He said, "I urge you to offer your body as a living sacrifice". Submit to God. That's not easy, and that's not just a conversation about conversion. That isn't just a discussion about our entrance into the kingdom, that certainly requires some yielding, but to grow up in the Lord, we have to continue to yield to him. Now, there may be some point in my future where that isn't difficult, but I can tell you up to this point, and I'm pretty much, I'm young, but it remains a challenge for me.

That voice in me that says, "I wanna do it my way. Nobody's gonna tell me what to do". I watched too many John Wayne movies. What's the, "I won't be laid a hand on". Yeah, that grows really quickly, doesn't it? And I have to say, "No, Lord, I will serve you. I will honor you. I want you to be first. I will not entertain my ways in front of your ways". "Don't conform any longer," verse 2, "to the pattern of this world," see, the pattern of this world says, "You're first. You do what you want, when you want, the way you want. Satisfy yourself. Don't yield, you only make the journey one time. Grab all you can get, get all you can, and then can it and sit on a can". That message is so prolific amongst us that we evaluate ourselves against one another, who did it better than somebody else, who makes songs, I did it my way.

Folks, that's not a ballad you wanna hang over your head. I belong to Jesus. I wanna do it his way. I'm telling you that doesn't come easy to me; it may be easier for you. It requires daily attention for me. I have to begin most days by saying, "God, show me what it means to honor you today. What do you want me to do today"? And I don't mean my calendar is empty, but I mean, in the midst of all I have to do and all the responsibilities that may be in the day, "What does it look like for me to honor you? Show me what to pick up and what not to". Then you'll be able to test and approve what God's will is. 2 Corinthians 5 says we're a new creation, total new kind of being. 2 Corinthians 5:17, "If anyone is in Christ, he's a new creation; the old has gone," I love that image, "the new has come! This is from God, he's reconciled us to himself through Christ and he gave us the ministry of reconciliation".

You're a new creation in Christ, you're not just forgiven. So I think we've had the idea that to come to Christ means oh, God kind of overlooks your indiscretions. He deletes your social media before we even knew we had one. You know, God's got a record. And he says he cast our sins in the sea of his forgetfulness, as far as the east is from the west. And so I think we've labored with this notion, "Well, God doesn't", you know, "It's okay, God", that's not it. God paid an enormous price. He offered his Son as a sacrifice so that you and I could not just be forgiven, that we could become a totally new creation. A different set of parameters over us. It's not like he took us to the body shop and they hammered out some of the dings and put a little Bondo on it and sanded it off and repainted it; we looked pretty good. No, you're a totally new creation. You will cry, "Yes, I belong to Jesus"!

How is it we've been reluctant? Why have we been? What is up? "Well, I don't wanna be one of those fanatics". I do. I grew up in Tennessee, folks. The only thing that stays in the middle of the road long term, you don't wanna be. Just trust me on that. If you're new to Tennessee, you wait. Springtime will bring out some of our critters. In Revelation 21 it says we have a new future, "He'll wipe every tear from their eyes. And there'll be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away". That's not true for every human being. There's an eternity of brokenness for the people who reject God. It makes a difference.

What you decide to do with your life. It makes a decision who's Lord of your life. It makes a difference if you serve yourself or you serve the Lord. Who you belong to makes a tremendous difference. To offer yourself as a living sacrifice means you get a new future. To choose to honor the Lord with your life each day means God writes a story for you. We've been reluctant. We've been so focused on making friends with the ungodly, we've stopped saying to the church, "There's a motivation for holiness". We focus so much on a gospel of salvation that we haven't talked about a gospel of the kingdom.

Now, I believe in being born again. I don't wanna diminish that or invite you away from it, but who are you living to please? This is the best response to the rise of paganism: that every life does have value, that marriage is between a man and a woman, that your children matter in the sight of God, and you better treat them like they belong to him, and you have a temporary assignment to steward those lives. You will answer to him for them. That's a serious thing. Roman 6 tells us we've been invited to new behavior. "Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity," we offered ourselves to all sorts of ungodliness and wickedness and selfish satisfaction. You don't need much imagination, you don't need Hollywood to help with that; we all have our own stories. "To ever-increasing wickedness," it escalates. Ungodliness is addictive, that's because unholy spirits put you in bondage.

The title of this particular session is "Freedom". The Holy Spirit does not bring bondage to your life. If you will choose to co-operate with him, he will set you free from every place you invited something into your life that put you in bondage. You can walk out from under the addictive things that have held you, the generational things that have held you. The places where you've offered unholy spirits access to your thoughts or your behaviors or your family systems. Through the blood of Jesus you can walk out from under those things. An unholy spirit, when you yield to that will increasingly put you under bondage. Now, we could tell our own stories of that if we would be honest enough.

You see, we've settled for too long in the church to this narrative of that you wanna say the sinner's prayer, and then you're just gonna live your life on your own terms thinking you've got a ticket into eternity. The point of conversion is that you become a new creature and there's an authority at work on your behalf now that if you will choose to, you can be set free. But you have to choose, you have to acknowledge the bondage. You have to acknowledge the failure. See, we continue to step back into the shadows and do these compare and contrast with our secular friends, and go, "Well, you know, I'm kind of better than them. I'm not doing that". But the real initiative is to yield yourself as a living sacrifice to the Lord. "Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness".

Again, this isn't a conversation we've had a lot of. Righteousness is a great, big, old religious word. Righteousness is the ability to stand in the presence of God without fear, guilt, or shame. Imagine this: you and I have an appointment, every one of us. We have an audience with Almighty God. And there won't be anybody there, you won't be able to default or redirect; there'll be no misinformation. Everything will be there. And the Bible says there's the opportunity that you can keep that appointment without fear, guilt, or shame.

Now, I would submit to you it would be worth your while to know how to do that. And there's two primary tracks, one you can achieve on your own. We call that self-righteousness. "I do the right things". And that is a legitimate track if you keep the rules perfectly. But if you transgress one, you're guilty of all. Imagine if you could only keep your driver's license if you never broke a rule. Most of us would forfeit our license before we get off campus tonight. The alternative to that is the gift of righteousness that comes to us through faith in Jesus because he exhausted the curse of our disobedience that we might have the benefit of his perfect obedience, his righteousness. But here's where the story has taken an unhelpful detour: because we believe in grace and that gift of righteousness, we have somehow managed to morph that into: "It doesn't matter how I live. I can just say to the Lord, 'Oh, I'm sorry. Wink wink.'"

And then we go right on with our ungodly choices as if God were a complete fool. Now, it's true you can't earn your way into the kingdom of God. But it's equally true that we have been called to lead righteous lives. That the value you attach to that gift of righteousness can be readily seen in the degree to which you will yield to righteousness with your choices. See,* you would say to somebody that was in a relationship if they were married to someone who was a serial adulterer that every time they gave their word, they broke it. But they broke that covenant day after day, and every time they returned, and they said, "Oh, I'm sorry". But they never changed. I believe you would say that person had broken covenant. And you see, in the church, we have been distributing license as if it really made no difference, because after all, God's a God of grace.

Well, I believe in the grace of God, I have needed it, and continue to have need of it, but I don't want to live presumptively. And if you've read the New Testament at all, if God's grace were infinite, and sin was really not important, the cross would not have been necessary. But sin is so egregious, and the demand for righteousness so high, the only possibility you and I had was if Jesus offered himself. As unjust as it was, as unfair as it was, as inappropriate as it was, as brutal as it was, it was the only hope that we had. And our response then is to say, "I will live uprightly before the Lord".

Now, we will do it in a halting way, in a broken way, those little children that you saw in here a little bit ago will learn to walk, but they will do it in a very messy way. Right now, fortunately, they bounce, and they're limber in a way that the rest of us can only imagine. If I wrapped my foot where they put their foot, I would need pharmaceuticals and medical attention. But for all of the imperfection in it, they will learn to walk. They will gather the competency and the balance and the motor skills to be able to walk. And we're told to grow up in the Lord, and we do it in a halting way, in an inconsistent way. And if we are newer to the faith and younger in the journey, that makes perfect sense.

If we wanna hold up our credentials and say, "We are senior citizens in the kingdom of God," but we're still stumbling and bumbling, it seems we haven't taken the invitation very seriously. And so we find ourselves with paganism exploding, and the voice of the church heard small. Then I would say to you we don't have to have a majority. There is an authority in God's truth. And if his people will begin to embrace the truth in our lives and in our homes and in our families, in our spheres of influence, we will see Almighty God express his opinion. And that supersedes any political movement or any media expression or whoever you think holds the power. They will all yield to Almighty God. That's the story in scripture. And that's the story of God's people in the 21st century, if we will believe it.

Oh, I got a couple of minutes. Good for me. Look at Colossians 3, it says, "Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature," it didn't say lock it at home or suppress it or hide it or paint it up or decorate it really pretty, it said, "Put it to death," and then it gives you kind of a list. It's not an inclusive list, but it gives you an idea. This is what you gotta deal with: "Sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires, greed. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming". He's writing this to Christians. "You used to walk in these ways, in the life you once lived. But now you must rid yourselves of all such things as these," and then he gets the list back out again, "anger, rage, malice, slander, filthy language. As God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved," and now he gives us five things to do.

"Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience". It sounds to me like a description of the fruit of the Spirit. Clothe yourself with what the Spirit of God will bring to your life if you cooperate with him. You will not find yourself compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, and patient without the help of the Spirit of God. Or let me put it this way: Allen won't. And then it says, "Bear with each other". Bear with each other, don't be angry or judgmental or critical. Don't gossip. Don't celebrate the weaknesses of others so you can elevate yourself, bear with each other. Number three, "Forgive whatever grievances you may have had against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you".

Did we deserve forgiveness? No. He said, "Forgive one another," whatever grievances there are... we live in a culture that accumulates grievances and holds on to them. We don't forgive. I'm talking about the church. We hold it over one another's heads. We use it as leverage. In verse 14, "Over all of these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity". Again, he's talking to Christians about Christians. Put on love, and then finally, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace".

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. Peace is not an absence of conflict, folks. The peace of Jesus did not lead a conflict-free life. They tortured him to death in his own hometown. He went to synagogue on Sabbath and he read from the book of Isaiah. He didn't steal, he didn't lead an insurrection. He didn't try to bring down the power structure, he read from the scroll of Isaiah in his hometown, and they tried to kill him. His life is filled with rejection and anger and hatred and hostility, and then he said to us, "My peace I give to you". Oh, what does that mean? But in the face of all of those things, what you never find is Jesus panicked. You never find him threatened or terrified. He had a calm assurance of God's abiding presence and unlimited power. He could be in a boat, and the fisherman with him in the boat thought they were about to drown because of the storm, and they wake up the carpenter, and he stands up in the boat. Knucklehead.

And then he speaks to the wind and the waves. It's time to pay taxes, and they're not prepared, and he says, "Just go fishing, you'll catch a fish with the money you need. Pay yours and mine". They've got a hungry group of people to feed and no food trucks. And Jesus said, "Just take that boy's lunch and bring it to me". "Take that boy's lunch," can you believe that, "Take that boy's lunch"? Can you see his parents? "What do you mean you want my boy's lunch"? And he fed the multitude. You never find him panic, so when he says, this is important, "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts," you see, the message in your head says, "You better act like the world. You better lie, cheat, and steal. You better diminish your Christianity, you're gonna need a little ungodliness to get ahead. If you identify with Jesus, if you give your word, and you keep it. If you stand up for what's right, you're gonna be diminished, you're gonna be threatened, your kids are gonna suffer".

No. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. That's what you were called to. We've been living so far away from this. We've acted like the world. We built our success plans just like the secular culture, just like the pagans! They kind of looked at them, and like, you know, "They're having a better time than I am". Because we haven't really known who we are in Christ, and we've been living in this bondage. Clothe yourselves, bear with each other, forgive the grievances, put on love, let the peace of Christ rule in your heart.

I brought you a proclamation I want to close with. It's a declaration over your life of what God says about you and me. We're gonna find our way to some freedom, folks. We're gonna turn up the light and watch what God will do to protect our children and our grandchildren. To see our schools start to promote godliness again, and righteousness and holiness, to get the pornography out of them. Won't you stand with me for this. Let's say it together. This would be great for your devotional this week. Don't just leave it at church, please, share it with somebody else. Together:

I belong to Jesus and His kingdom. Through the blood of Jesus I am redeemed out of the hand of the devil. My body is the temple of the Holy Spirit. I am seated with Christ in the heavenly places, far above all rule & authority, power & dominion, and every title that can be given, not only the present age but also in the one to come. Therefore, Satan has no place in me, no power over me, through the blood of Jesus. Amen.

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